'Tis the season!
No, not for Christmas or New Year's, but for colds and flus!
Most of us are cooped up inside due to the nasty winter weather, meanwhile, germs are having a hayday making us miserable all season long!
You've got to act fast to fight off colds and flu.
Case in point: University of Arizona scientists have found that when someone is sick in an office, it takes only four hours (!) for surfaces like coffeepot handles, copy-machine buttons and the fridge door to show traces of infectious virus.
Considering that the 2014-2015 flu season was one of the worst on record—it even reached epidemic status—it's well worth arming yourself against aches, cough, fever and general misery.
We wanted to know what really works to ward off nasty viruses, so we turned to doctors, flight attendants, teachers and other brave souls who are exposed to germs every day for their advice.
Steal one or more of these ideas to keep yourself (and your family) healthy this year!
14 REAL-LIFE TIPS TO CONQUER COLD & FLU SEASON
SANITIZE YOUR OFFICE SPACE
"I clean everything that gets touched by lots of people—microwaves, fax-machine keys, doorknobs, elevator buttons, the armrests on my chair—with a good disinfectant at least once a week, even if it looks clean. It's just basic hygiene. Rhinoviruses can live on surfaces for up to 48 hours!"
—Philip Tierno, PhD, author of The Secret Life of Germs
GET A MASSAGE
"I receive massages once a month to increase my circulation, which boosts immunity by nourishing cells with more oxygen and blood. It also makes me relaxed and less stressed, and when you're less stressed, you're less likely to be a germ magnet."
—Christine Nelson, a massage therapist in Las Cruces, N.M.
"When I'm walking past another person and he is sneezing or coughing, I gently and slowly breathe out until I'm beyond the 6- to 10-foot zone around him. This keeps me from inhaling the air he just contaminated."
—Stafford Broumand, MD, a plastic surgeon in New York City
BRING YOUR OWN PEN
"With an immune-compromised child at home—my son got a bone-marrow transplant when he was a year old to treat Wiskott-Aldrich Syndrome—I've become used to bringing my own pen to the bank, the grocery store, the doctor's office. I even touch the ATM with it. That way, I avoid picking up germs I might spread to my child."
—Kim Okochi, a mother of two in Secretary, Md.
"As a paramedic, I never know what germs I'll be encountering. So I drink water constantly to flush toxins out through the lymph system. During cold and flu season, my EMT partner and I start our day by making and drinking juice. We'll use kale, broccoli, apple, arugula, parsley, cucumber, carrots, Swiss chard, lemon and mint. Since I don't get my recommended nine servings of whole fruits and vegetables every day (who does?), juicing allows me to drink that amount in concentrated form."
—Kristina Economou, a paramedic in Monterey, Calif.
KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF
"I never use water fountains or the railings on stairs. They've got the prints of hundreds of germy hands (and mouths!), and they don't get sanitized as often as other surfaces, like sinks. I'll use my own water bottle, thank you very much!"
—Cheryl Lassiter, a kindergarten teacher in Atlanta
"Gyms are crawling with sweaty towels, dirty sneakers and other germy grossness. Instead of sitting directly on a mat or bench, I'll place a clean towel on it first. Any equipment that I have to touch—like free weights or bicycle handlebars— I'll clean first with antibacterial wipes."
—Franci Cohen, group-exercise instructor and owner of Fuel Fitness, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
"I drink hot oolong tea with lemon and honey. Drinking the tea and breathing in steam stimulates the cilia—the hair follicles in the nose—to move out germs more efficiently. Lemon thins mucus, and honey is antibacterial."
—Murray Grossan, MD, ear, nose and throat specialist at Cedars-Sinai Hospital, in Los Angeles
GET A PROTEIN FIX
"Research shows that diets that are too low in protein can deplete the immune system. So I make sure to get protein-rich foods throughout the day, especially fish, eggs and yogurt."
—Douglas Kalman, PhD, RD, director of nutrition and applied clinical trials at Miami Research Associates
LOSE THE BOOZE
"When I'm on trips, I don't drink alcohol. It interferes with sleep quality, and I'm much more likely to get sick when I'm sleep-deprived. I've also read that nightcaps disrupt REM sleep, which is the most restorative part of sleep."
—Kim Mazzolini, a flight attendant with Alaska Airlines
SWEAT IT OUT
"I run whenever and wherever I possibly can. When I travel, I try to stay in a hotel that has a dry sauna and use it every day. Sweating makes me feel like I'm getting all the toxins and germs out."
—Mike Martinez, a city-council member in Austin, Texas
PROTECT YOUR HANDS
"I wash my hands often and pat them fully dry so they don't get flaky, which can allow germs in. Then I moisturize."
—Diane Berson, MD, associate clinical professor of dermatology at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York Presbyterian Hospital
CLEAN YOUR PHONE
"As a doctor, I need to keep my cell phone with me at all times. During the day, I might place it on a counter or use it in between opening doors, pushing elevator buttons or shaking hands with patients or colleagues. Cleaning my phone with a sanitizing wipe regularly cuts back on the germs that get near my face and mouth."
CALL IT A DAY
"My strategy is to double down on trying to get enough sleep, even if it's just a power nap on a plane. Research shows that our bodies need seven to eight hours of sleep in order to stimulate an immune response from our 'natural killer cells,' which attack viruses. Sleep is my most reliable defense against infection."
—David Katz, MD, founder of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and author of Disease-Proof: The Remarkable Truth About What Makes Us Well
Hopefully these real-life tips will help keep you healthy this cold and flu season!
Aside from the traditional, "wash your hands often" and "get plenty of rest," these tips are easy, everyday things to keep you from picking up nasty viruses from your day-to-day activities.
Being aware of what you are touching, who you are around and how you are taking care of your body all play a huge part in how healthy you stay this season.
Sometimes, wearing rubber gloves and face masks just doesn't cut it when out in the real world, so incorporate some of these great tips and share them with friends and family.
What are some ways you avoid germs during cold and flu season? Let me know in the comments below!
Yours in Health & Happiness,
P.S. Fun fact: I haven't been sick for years since drinking Oolong Tea. Even being amongst kids, the office, out in public and in doctor's offices, my immune system has stayed SO strong due to the incredible antioxidants I ingest everyday!
Known for its anti-cancer properties, Oolong tea assists in maintaining a healthy immune system. The antioxidant flavonoids found in the tea prevent cellular damage. The production of anti-bacterial proteins is much higher in those who drink Oolong tea, indicating a strong immune response when fighting infection.
*Quotes courtesy of Health.com